Recruiting Roundup: WVU’s Defensive Needs
We took a look at West Virginia’s recruiting on the offensive side of the football a couple days ago. Now we turn our attention to the defense.
Just a refresher in terms of the numbers. Because WVU brought in a couple of players last August via blue shirt status – meaning their scholarships counted ahead to the next class and not back to the last one – the Mountaineers only have 23 scholarships at their disposal for the class of 2020. With 15 verbal commitments to date from player who are all expected to sign LOIs on Dec. 18, that leaves West Virginia with just eight more scholarships left for this class. Don’t expect WVU to use all eight available scholarships with Dec. 18 signees, though, as Brown has said he’ll kept a few scholarships in reserve for either late signees (Feb. 5 will be the start of the next LOI period, which is lightly used since the advent of the early date) or transfers, many of whom won’t start looking for new schools until the spring or summer. So, the Mountaineers will likely sign in the neighborhood of 20 players on Dec. 18, and then keep any further grants-in-aid in their pocket for use later on down the line.
With all that said, here is a look at what West Virginia’s class of 2020 already has and what it still needs. Of course, there are always more needs than scholarships available. Brown would love to have 20 more schollies to use, but in truth, he has eight left and only four to six of those going to recruits who will sign this month.
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Committed (2) – Quay Mays (6-1, 290 lbs., Northwest Mississippi C.C./Bradenton, FL) and Sean Martin (6-5, 255 lbs., Bluefield H.S./Bluefield, WV) The nephew of former WVU cornerback Alvoid Mays, Quay certainly won’t be covering any passes like his uncle. This latest Mays is a big, interior defensive lineman who had 29 tackles, four TFLs and one sack for the Rangers, who finished this past season with an 8-3 record. A four-star recruit, Martin is slated to play defensive end for West Virginia. A one-time North Carolina commit, he had more than 20 Power 5 offers, but eventually decided against being a Tarheel and instead pledged to the Mountaineers. Martin will be playing in the Class AA state championship game Friday night at Wheeling Island Stadium, as his Bluefield Beavers (12-1) meet Bridgeport (12-1).
Additional DL needs (2) – How many d-linemen WVU ultimately takes will depend not just on how many it wants but how many want to come, because the Mountaineers are in deep with a number of very good ones. West Virginia definitely needs at least one more. It doesn’t have room for more than two or three, but it has five on the line and seems to be working all of them hard. The most likely possibilities are a pair who will visit this coming weekend – Eddie Watkins (6-4, 225 lbs., Hillcrest H.S./Evergreen, AL) and Wesley Bailey (6-5, 230 lbs., Clearwater (FL) Academy/Ontario, Canada). Watkins had 66 tackles and 10 sacks in helping Hillcrest to a 7-5 record this past season, as it advanced to the second round of Alabama’s 4A state playoffs. He committed to Georgia Tech last spring, but decided to reopen his recruitment a few months ago. Purdue, UCF, Kentucky and WVU now seem to be his main schools of interest. Bailey joined a number of Canadians in migrating to Clearwater Academy International near Tampa in recent years to get more exposure in front of U.S. colleges. It’s worked for many of them, including Bailey, who is being pursued heavily by not only WVU but also Illinois, Kansas State, Minnesota and Virginia Tech. Bailey’s CAI teammate, Akheem Mesidor (6-3, 255 lbs.), who is also a native of Ontario, Canada, likewise has West Virginia on his radar. UCLA, Pitt, Syracuse and Georgia Tech are the other candidates for his LOI signature. Jeffrey M’ba (6-6, 310 lbs., St. Thomas Moore (CT) Prep/Paris, Francis) took a visit to WVU this summer shortly after committing to Virginia. The big defensive tackle eventually decommitted from UVA, and now has interest from a number of powerhouses. Florida, Georgia and Michigan all have offers on the table, but WVU is still believed to be in the mix, though M’ba has kept his recruiting thoughts quiet as of late. Westley Neal (6-0, 300 lbs., Gulliver Prep/Miami, FL) is an interior defensive lineman who has gotten a great deal of recruiting attention from West Virginia, as well as from Miami, Indiana and Pitt, Maryland. Newly-hired Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is apparently trying to make a late push.
Committed (2) – The two linebackers WVU has on board so far – Taurus Simmons (6-3, 205 lbs., Jenkins H.S./Savannah, GA) and Lanell Carr 6-3, 235 lbs., De Smet Jesuit H.S./St. Louis, MO) both seemingly fit into the bandit linebacker position, though Simmons could also be a middle linebacker and Carr a defensive end. Simmons has 75 tackles and nine sacks for Jenkins so far this season, which is 12-1 and will play in Georgia’s Class AAA semifinals this Friday against Crisp County (10-3). Carr was a big part of getting his De Smet squad to the Missouri Class 6 state championship game, though he wasn’t able to participate in the Spartans’ crowning moment last Saturday, as they took down Joplin, 35-20, at Mizzou’s Faurot Field. Carr had been ejected, in a controversial call for allegedly throwing a punch, the week before in the semifinal win over Raymore-Peculiar, and thus by rule had to sit out the next game, which happened to be the state championship. Carr wasn’t able to suit up, but De Smet still hoisted the trophy.
Additional LB needs (0) – none
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Committed (3) – David Vincent-Okoli (6-1, 180 lbs., Watkins Mills H.S./Gaithersburg, MD), Jairo Faverus (6-0, 190 lbs., Bristol Academy/Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Jackie Matthews (6-0, 195 lbs., Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C./Pinson, AL) All three of WVU’s defensive back commits will likely start out at cornerback, but each has the size to move to safety if necessary. Matthews is a juco product who West Virginia hopes can provide immediate help in 2020.
Additional DB needs (2) – Despite three current commitments from defensive backs, WVU’s class of 2020 needs even more DBs, particularly safeties. Any of the three verbals could eventually be safeties, and the same is true for most of the defensive back recruits still on the Mountaineers’ radar. Daryl Porter (5-10, 165 lbs., American Heritage H.S./Plantation, FL) is probably an exception to that, as his size seems to have corner written all over it. Porter will visit WVU this weekend, and he’s also taken trips to Minnesota, Penn State, Washington State and Utah. Trying to pigeonhole a position for D.J. Lundy (6-1, 225 lbs./Irwin County H.S./Ocilla, GA) is difficult, because he could wind up at any number of spots. He’s an excellent high school running back (176 rushing yards on just seven carries in a win in the Georgia Class A quarterfinals last week), but he also could be a safety or linebacker in college. He lists WVU, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Tennessee as his final five. Trenton Yowe (6-2, 170 lbs., Calera H.S./Calera, AL) is a lanky corner who could also project to safety. He had been committed to Mississippi State, but has opened his recruitment again. WVU, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Florida are believed to his top schools of interest. B.J. Wagner (6-2, 175 lbs., Orlando Christian Prep/Orlando, FL) was an excellent wide receiver and safety at Orlando Christian (8-2), and is projected to be a safety in college. Missouri and Rutgers had been heavily involved, but the changes in coaching staff at each of those schools leaves a question mark for Wagner with both. Louisville, Troy, Western Kentucky and West Virginia all have offers on the table. Osita Smith (6-2, 195 lbs., Milford (NY) Academy/Baltimore, MD) is a name from the past. He signed with WVU last year but was unable to enroll. He wound up at Milford, which posted a 7-2 record this season against a schedule filled mainly with college junior varsity teams. Smith’s next step is uncertain, because he’s given no public indication as to what his recruiting intentions are this time around.